Super Bowl ads offer little surprise, creativity

Inside TV & Radio

Why, oh, why, do the big money advertisers show us their Super Bowl ads in advance?

If you were watching newscasts in the days leading up to Sunday’s big game, you were certain to have seen the Pepsi Twist spot featuring the Osbournes and the Osmonds. You at least heard what H&R Block’s Willie Nelson spot was all about. And you knew Michael Jordan the younger would meet Michael Jordan the older in a Gatorade spot.

Just like on the field, there were few real surprises out of Sunday night’s championship matchup of TV commercials, which cost around $2.1 million for 30 seconds of air time. The creativity of the old dot-coms is mostly gone.

The best ads came from Anheuser-Busch, the biggest buyer of advertising time with 11 spots. Nothing in its series of funny little commercials broke any ground, pushed any envelopes or invoked the kinds of cliches that measure the success of ads. But they were consistently effective in making viewers smile at the mention of the words “Bud Light.”

Maybe next year at least one or two of the advertisers will hold back their best stuff and actually give viewers a reason to look up from the big bowl of guacamole.

ABC did a good job in presenting its shows to an abnormally large audience, especially the show chosen to follow the game, “Alias.”

A series of ads showing star Jennifer Garner wearing very little clothing led into an episode of the series that began at 10 p.m. The network is hoping to jump-start the ratings for “Alias” with an episode designed to simplify the sometimes complicated story line.




Team: Bud Light

Game Plan: Clown who appears to be walking on his hands comes into a bar and orders a beer. The upright guy inside the clown suit appears to be pouring the beer into his, uh, other end. The spot ends with the bartender refusing to serve him a hot dog.

Winning Play: In a quarter full of high-profile commercials with the Osbournes and Willie Nelson, this rude and crude little ad for Butt Light came out of nowhere.


Team: Federal Express

Game Plan: Shaggy Tom Hanks lookalike delivers package after being marooned on an island for five years. Then he learns that inside the package is enough hardware to have gotten him off the island.

Penalty: Fed Ex – which sells speed and timeliness – dusts off three-year-old “Castaway” for its spot. Huh?



Team: Bud Light

Game Plan: Guy wants a beer, but the bar doesn’t allow pets. So he puts his pooch on his head like a shaggy mop of dreadlocks and fakes a Jamaican accent. Then his hair starts growling.

Winning Play: This simple, direct and very goofy play gives Bud Light the quarter – and the first half of the big game. The spots don’t make you thirsty. But they make you remember Bud Light.


Team: Hanes

Game Plan: Jackie Chan has a terrible itch, and Michael Jordan mugs for the camera as Jackie jumps around a lot. Apparently it’s the tag on Jackie’s t-shirt that’s causing the problem, so Hanes tries to sell us a new tagless version.

Penalty: America’s not really facing a chronic chafing crisis. Although that could explain why Donald Rumsfeld seems so irritable these days.




Game Plan: Hopeful workers in various workplaces sing Kermit the Frog’s bittersweet song about rainbows.

Winning Play: In one of the few moody spots of the night, Yahoo’s job search site is selling hope, or as it says in its slogan “dreams found faster.” The spot also scores some nostalgia points. Remember the lost era?


Team: Subway

Game Plan: Jared has a dream about a Subway shop of his very own right in his apartment. “Same dream?” his girlfriend asks as she wakes him. “Same dream,” he says.

Penalty: Subway’s sandwiches may have helped Jared lose 754 pounds, but they didn’t turn him into a particularly interesting or telegenic pitchman. These ads are supposed to make you hungry.



Team: ABC’s “Alias.”

Game Plan: The star of the thriller gets out of a swimming pool and dries herself off against a background of tense music. The slogan “Looks can kill” pops up, and the camera dissolves to her firing a gun.

Winning Play: By the last quarter, attention was drifting despite a late Oakland push. How do you keep the huge Super Bowl audience, at least the male portion? You tease them with a bikini-clad Jennifer Garner rising, sopping wet, out of a swimming pool. Boy was that an effective strategy.


Team: Master Card debit card

Game Plan: Presidents Washington, Jackson and Lincoln are waiting testily at home while a guy uses his Master Card debit card on a date. “Ice cream: $10 on debit card,” says the narrator. “Leaving your cash at home: Priceless.”

Penalty: But you’re actually spending your dead presidents with a debit card, right? So what’s the point here, other than the chance to dress up actors as Washington, Jackson and Lincoln?


NBC offered a good reason to turn away from what’s usually the weakest part of Super Bowl Sunday – halftime. A 30-minute version of “Saturday Night Live” offered humor based on the game and the rest of what’s happening in the world.

While Shania Twain, No Doubt and Sting were singing familiar songs amid lots of smoke and spotlights, Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey were having fun at the expense of Lara Flynn Boyle, “American Idol” and the Oakland Raiders.

“The score at the half is Oakland Raiders 3, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 327,” cracked Fallon.

As for Boyle, her ridiculous ballerina costume at last week’s Golden Globe Awards brought this from Fey: “In a triumph of anorexia, Lara Flynn Boyle is finally fit enough to wear actual Barbie clothes.”